They will share power for five years in a coalition government of national unity after the country holds its first all-race elections, next year.
The Independent on Sunday has learned that agreement was reached in a secret deal in talks between government and ANC negotiators last month.
Sources in both camps have confirmed that each made important concessions on previously inflexible positions.
President F W de Klerk had insisted throughout his three-and- a-half years in office that majority rule was not suitable for South Africa given its racial and cultural diversity.
He sought constitutional entrenchment of what he called 'power-sharing', while the ANC leader Nelson Mandela's demand had always been for straightforward majority rule in the manner of the western democracies.
The decisive move came at the end of last year when the ANC accepted the principle of power- sharing for a fixed number of years.
In the latest round of talks, the ANC also agreed to begin negotiations on a federal system of government in which power is devolved regionally, as in the United States. This, in turn, prompted the government to relent on its stand.
By June this year, a Transitional Executive Council made up of black and white politicians should be in place, to ensure the impartiality of the security forces, state broadcasting and the voting mechanisms in advance of free and fair elections.
By October the multi-party forum should have reached agreement on a transitional constitution and a bill of rights, which will establish the divisions of power within an interim government of national unity.
By April next year, elections will be held for the interim government, which will also draft the final constitution.
'It is as good a deal as Mr de Klerk could have hoped for,' according to Colin Eglin, chief negotiator of the Democratic Party. Mr Eglin, who stands in the liberal centre of South African politics, also praised what he called the 'extraordinary maturity' of the ANC leadership.
'I think the ANC is the most sophisticated liberation movement there has been,' he said.
'I feel proud to be a South African. What we have achieved will be textbook stuff for negotiations the world over.'
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